Siticable to be partner for Sterling DTH TV joint venture?

Zee Telefilms Ltd (ZTL) announced yesterday that it was setting up a DTH television joint venture with Sterling group's C.Sivasankaran. According to sources, the actual vehicle is likely to be ZTL's cable networking company Siticable.

The thinking within the ZTL is that since is Siticable already has its distribution infrastructure (team of people) in place, it would be better if it participates in the project.

The extent of equity is not known because the DTH notification passed last week does not permit existing broadcasters and cable TV companies from investing more than 20 per cent in DTH service provider. ZTL chairman Subhash Chandra has protested against this clause and is lobbying hard to have it changed.

I&B minister Sushma Swaraj has said that the restriction is essential to prevent the emergence of vertical monopolies in broadcasting.

One tends to believe that one has not heard the last of the joint venture; other equity partners may also be lured in. Both Chandra and Siva will have their work cut out for them giving shape to the jv as both are involved in the broadcasting business, should the government not revoke the equity restriction clause.

Yesterday, Sivasankaran, told local financial daily Business Standard: "We are happy to join forces with country’s leading content provider Zee Network. We have already signed agreements for channels such as the Sun Network, Udaya and Asianet. We also have an in principle undertstanding with established foreign and Indian channels to be on the DTH platform...served with a DTV card which will have a one-time cost as low as Rs 995."

The simple version of the DTH set-top box will be available to the household at less than Rs 5,000 per box, Sivasankaran told Business Standard.

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